Guilt describes a sense of regret or responsibility that relates to actions taken. People may feel guilt over things they actually did wrong, things they believe were their fault, or things they had no responsibility for.
Guilt is something we’ve all experienced at one point or another in our lives. If you’ve ever said or done something to hurt someone else and then experienced emotional distress, that is guilt.
It’s appropriate to feel guilty after doing something that deserves remorse, but problems may arise if you ruminate over the guilt for an extended period of time.
There are a variety of reasons why people might have a guilty conscience. It’s not only when we hurt someone else that we feel guilty. For example, a full-time working mother may feel a sense of guilt for working long hours and not spending what she considers enough time with her child.
Or the reverse can be true as well: A working mother might feel guilty for neglecting work whenever she’s with her family.
The negative thinking associated with unhealthy guilt can stem from conditions such as depression, burnout or OCD, and cause severe health problems. In extreme cases, it can even lead to death.
The Two Types of Guilt
Having a healthy sense of guilt is a good thing, as this feeling reminds us that we have done something wrong, and helps us correct ourselves. It’s important to identify which type of guilt you are dealing with – either proportionate or disproportionate guilt.
Type 1: Proportionate Guilt
Proportionate guilt is a healthy feeling that is equivalent and relative to the situation at hand. To determine if you are experiencing proportionate guilt, take a step back and review what you did, and weigh it with an objective eye. What would you think if someone else were in your shoes?
This can help you understand if you deserve the internal lectures that you are giving yourself. The good thing about proportionate guilt is that it allows you to correct your wrongdoing because you are able to recognize its severity.
Proportionate guilt is a helpful emotion because it allows us to grow and learn from our mistakes. When guilt emerges from hurting someone or making a negative impact that could have been prevented, our brains are being signaled to alter that behavior to avert potential consequences. This stops us from getting away with things that we shouldn’t do, and it acts as a guide for changing our behavior and correcting our sense of what is acceptable and what is not.
Many irrational beliefs hide behind guilt, which often makes it difficult to sort out your feelings. It is important to learn how to be objective with yourself when you are feeling guilty so you are making decisions based on sound and rational thinking.
Type 2: Disproportionate Guilt
Unlike the helpful proportionate guilt that leads us to right our wrongs, disproportionate guilt is unhealthy and causes us to ruminate over situations. Disproportionate guilt often leads to feelings of shame and resentment because the emotion you are feeling is largely out of proportion with the situation.
There are many sources from which disproportionate guilt can stem, including feeling guilty for a promotion (even though you earned it), feeling like you didn’t do enough for someone who is in need, doing a better job than someone else, and not doing the things that you truly want to do.
For example, you may feel disproportionate guilt for getting a promotion when your co-worker didn’t. If you got this promotion because of your hard work and dedication and you feel guilty anyway, it means you’re dealing with disproportionate guilt. This kind of guilt is irrational, and if you experience it, it is important to realize that you can’t control the actions of other people.
Guilt causes stress and reduces workplace effectiveness. If not addressed it can seriously hinder relationships and contribute to psychological problems.
There are two main types of guilt. Healthy guilt involves accepting that you’ve done wrong, and using it as a prompt to improve your relationships and behaviors by:
- Making amends.
- Changing your behavior.
- Accepting your faults and moving on.
Unhealthy guilt is when you feel guilty for things that are imaginary or beyond your control. It can be hard to shift, but you can manage your feelings by:
- Understanding what you can and can’t control.
- Challenging your own standards.
- Affirming the positive aspects of the situation.
- Being assertive with those who seek to make you feel guilty.
Guilt is a difficult emotion and a combination of feelings, each so personal and so wrapped up in the next, that it sometimes has no end and no beginning. Do feelings of guilt nag at you when you are trying to focus or go to sleep? Is your stomach tied up in knots because you can’t let go of your mistakes or misguided actions? Perhaps the source of your guilt is unknown, but the reality of the pain it is causing you is very real.
When we feel guilty, we tend to punish ourselves with negative thoughts. Many of us relive the experience over and over in our heads, even though it makes us feel worse each time.
The thoughts associated with guilt often include anger, embarrassment, shame, sadness, and remorse – and when your guilt starts to affect your sleep or your enjoyment of life, it’s time to do something about it.
The problem is not that you have these feelings of guilt – it’s that they persist. Not taking action eventually leads to self-loathing. So it’s time to let go of this pattern of guilt and start to feel good again. The good news is that hypnosis lets you open the ‘door to change’ and with the help of hypnotherapy you can let go of that guilt and start to live your life again!
This hypnosis sessions will gently guide you into a state of deep relaxation, in which you can let your mind become open to new thoughts and new ideas. Developed by our team of highly experienced hypnotherapists, it can give you the chance to work on your emotions and to positively affect the part of your mind that has held onto feelings of guilt for far too long.